Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish Catholic priest and theologian who paid special attention to spiritual formation – and recorded his method in what become known as the Spiritual Exercises. In the 1540s, as a mature student, Ignatius found himself needing to start all over again with studies at the University of Paris. Yet, as he persevered through many challenges, his seven years in Paris proved to be highly significant for Ignatius – with the gathering of a small group of friends who would eventually form the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to start all over again? Such moments are often the result of challenging times, yet Ignatius’ story reminds us that by focusing on Jesus, new beginnings can be born from life’s greatest trials. The current season of Lent – which commenced on March 2nd – offers us an opportunity to do just that: keep our focus firmly on Jesus. The benefits of celebrating Lent The Lenten season lasts for 40 days, mirroring Jesus’ time spent in the desert. Just like Jesus fasted during those 40 days, many Christians choose to give something up for that period of time. It is a practice of self-denial and reflection. We take time to recognize that the ONLY thing that can truly quench our hunger, thirst, and desire is Jesus. Then, when Easter comes, our hearts are ready to rejoice. What can I give up? Some advice I have been given that I found useful is to pick something that I think about a lot or find my identity in. This is why people often give up a food, drink, or social media. The idea is that when we decide to temporarily give up something that we use or think about often, it will help draw our minds to Jesus more frequently – reminding us that He is the one who sustains us. What about adding something? If Ignatius was alive today, he’d no doubt also be encouraging us to add a spiritual discipline to our daily or weekly routine during Lent. This is another great way to turn our heart toward Christ. What are referred to as the First Spiritual Exercises combine the ministries of spiritual conversation and spiritual exercises. It can be as simple as focusing and reflecting on the answers to these questions, which helped create the exercises: What do I desire? Where can I find life? What is my true face? What is under my feet? Do I have to be strong to serve? You can find out more about spiritual exercises, and consider adding them to your spiritual practices, here: https://jisa.org.au/spiritual-exercises/ Share this Facebook Twitter Pinterest Where to get help 24/7 Helplines Lifeline: 13 11 14 Kids Helplines: 1800 551 800 Mensline: 1300 789 978 Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36 Headspace: 1800 650 890 Talk to your doctor and see a mental health professional. Visit CCAA to search for a Christian counsellor near you.